Conservation of Linear Momentum and Energy

Special Bouncing Collisions

Same as previous except that mass ratio of balls is 1:3 (softball:basketball) leaving basketball dead and softball four times the height.

tennis and basketball

Newton's Cradle

What it shows:

Demonstration of elastic collisions between metal balls to show conservation of momentum and energy.

How it works:

Newton's Cradle (less affectionately known as Newton's Balls) consists of six rigid balls hanging in a row with bifilar suspension. The balls hang so that they just barely touch their neighbor.

Various initial conditions can be employed. A single ball displaced will collide with the remaining four, sending the ball at the far end off. Same idea for two or three balls. Four balls, and only the first two will stop; the center two...

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Bungee Jumping Barney

What it shows:

Using conservation of energy, calculate the height from which Barney must jump so that his head just barely kisses the floor at the bottom of his bungee cord jump. Then verify by experiment. Oops ... hate when that happens! It turns out that it's not so simple and there are important details that must be taken into account.

How it works:

Barney (the friendly pink dinosaur) is "sandbagged" (with a 5 kg weight, duct-taped around his waist) and suspended from the sky-hook by a 3.1 meter-long (unstretched) spring. The spring constant has been measured...

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Bow and Arrow

Use conservation of energy to predict the height the arrow will reach.

bow and arrow

What it shows:

When the string of a bow and arrow is pulled from equilibrium, the elastic potential energy in the bow is converted to kinetic energy of the arrow when the string is released. When the arrow...

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A toy car rolling down a loop-the-loop track demonstrates the minimum height it must start at to successfully negotiate the loop.

What it shows:

For an object to move in a vertical circle, its velocity must exceed a critical value vc=(Rg)1/2, where R is the radius of the circle and g the acceleration due to gravity. This ensures that, at the top of the loop, the centripetal force balances the body's weight. This can be shown using a toy car on a looped track.

How it works:

The car is released from the top of a ramp and runs down a slope towards...

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Pendulum and Nose

Faith in the conservation of energy is tested by taking the demonstrator's nose to task.

What it shows:

The principle of conservation of energy ensures that a pendulum released at a particular amplitude will not exceed that amplitude on the return swing. A lecturer's faith in their subject is put to the test using a 50lb (22.7kg) iron ball.

How it works:

Technique is very important here. The best method to employ is to stand with your back against the blackboard with your head also touching the board. This ensures that you don't lean forward after release....

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Elastic and Inelastic Collision Model

What it shows:

Two cars have the same mass and same spring bumper. When given a push and allowed to collide with a wall, one car bounces off with only a small reduction in speed ("elastic" collison) whereas the other car comes nearly to a complere stop ("inelastic" collision).

How it works:

There are two impulse cars made of identical materials and have the same mass. The car that models an elastic collision has all its lead sinkers securely attached to the frame so that they can't move. In contrast, the car that models an inelastic collision has the lead sinkers...

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Reactionary Roadbed

Radio controlled car moves one way while road moves the other.

What it shows:

We tell our students that, when a car drives down the road, the road and the Earth move in the opposite direction, albeit imperceptibly. This demonstration is a realization of that concept, made possible (and perceptible) by the fact that the road is not attached to the Earth.


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